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Why I Sold My Beautiful ‘Stolen’ Jeep FC And Kept My Rusty Blue One

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The “stolen” Jeep FC-150 is officially gone, meaning I will be conducting an electric vehicle conversion on an absolute rustbucket — my 1958 Willys FC-170. While this may not make sense to many of you, I did put some thought into this decision. Hear me out.

I own too many cars. This has become far more apparent now that I’m no longer just a writer for a car website, but instead someone with a leadership role. Take yesterday, for example. I should have been writing, editing, researching, and answering emails, but instead I was elbow deep inside the piece-of-crap AMC 360 in my 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle (more on that steaming pile later today; hold onto your hats). I’m also getting old, and want to diversify my life a little bit more, as I’ve been spending 95% of all my weekends of the past seven years either wrenching or scouring junkyards. I’ve been in deep, folks. Real deep.

Anyway, all this is to say that I’m more serious than ever about downsizing my fleet. Here’s a look at my plan for my 12 machines:

The first to go was supposed to by my black 1991 Jeep Cherokee five-speed (there on the left), but you all remember the shitstorm that happened 20 minutes after my buyer drove away: I received a phone call saying the thing overheated and refused to start. So I had the car towed back to my place, and that sale has stalled until I can swap a cylinder head.

Luckily, yesterday’s sale of my sketchy 1957 Willys FC-150 went a lot smoother. I received an envelope of $5,000 cash, the buyer — who owns a bunch of property and will be using the Willys as a runabout — received a Jeep with a bill-of-sale hastily written out on a piece of paper, and that was that.

When I first bought the red FC-150, I referred to it as “stolen” because it not only lacks a title, it lacks any form of vehicle identification number whatsoever unless you count the engine number. That engine, by the way, is the wrong one for the Jeep (and oh by the way, it’s seized). I bought this Jeep from a guy who just showed up at my house asking if I wanted a farm truck he had stored in a warehouse filled with all sorts of household junk — all just piled up high in small mountains. Ignoring many red flags, I gave the guy two grand, and then towed the vehicle to my backyard, where it has sat for over six months.

I considered using this machine over my other FC as the basis for an EV conversion, but I’ve decided against it. First, I don’t want to deal with the titling/VIN paperwork hassle. Is it less hassle than basically welding up an entirely new body? Sure. But let’s be honest about the stolen Jeep’s body: It’s largely made up of riveted patch panels and Bondo/body filler. Look at this:

Between the missing paperwork, the bondo, the missing bed, and the fact that the 1957 FC-150’s frame is much narrower than the FC-170s and likely too narrow to fit a Tesla drive unite, it was clear what I had to do. The stolen Jeep had to go, and I had to keep ol’ Rusty But Trusty:

Luckily, you all agreed when I asked you what I should do:

That red Jeep may have been pretty, but it was a big liar. My blue machine here is basically Swiss Cheese, but it’s not trying to impress anyone. It runs and drives, its frame is solid, and that’s about all it’s got going for it. But at least there’s no weird bullshit going on with the paperwork or bodywork — everything is out in the open.

So sketchy FC-150, you made me $3,000 that I can put into bodywork/batteries for my blue machine, and for that I’m grateful. But good riddance.

Hopefully I’ll fix my Cherokee XJ’s cylinder head soon, I’ll find a buyer for my Valiant, and I’ll fix my Golden Eagle so I can part ways with it, too. But that last one is not going well at all. In the end, I hope to be left with six vehicles stateside, plus my 1969 Chrysler Valiant ute in Australia and a diesel manual Chrysler Voyager in Germany.

Finally I’ll have a normal-person fleet.

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60 Responses

    1. Same here. My DD still has it’s snow tires on it, and my project has plugs and wires that need to go into it, and I’m expecting new window gaskets any day but I’m not sure when I’ll have time to get to that… and the lawn needs mowing, the snowblower needs summer-izing, and both of those require doing a bit of shuffling of things in the garage to get the snowblower tucked away and the lawnmower out… and my motorcycle hasn’t even been taken out yet…

    1. Yeah, that makes too much sense. The FC is too far gone by 20 years, that second ZJ is wholly redundant, and that Australian debacle is obviously a morning-after “I did WHAT?” situation. Someone would part with nonzero Euros for the minivan. That would leave:

      1 – a great XJ that could run forever,
      2 – a cool ZJ that would need the constant stream of wrenching that all ZJ’s need,
      3 – a classic Jeep pickup project that is more romantic than practical, but not ludicrous, and
      4 – a rotating quixotic lost-cause project to keep the drooling masses like me entertained

      This fleet would:

      A) Provide a diverse enough set of challenges to stay interesting, but still be organizable into a manageable, prioritized plan,
      B) Result in a yard that doesn’t look like the Highway of Death outside of Kuwait City,
      C) Feed me the busted-knuckles hopeless mechanical absurdity I CRAVE, and
      D) Free up enough time for social interaction with actual flesh-and-blood humans. You know, eye contact and fist bumps and stuff? Maybe a little lady (or whomever) to split Alibi Greek salads with every Friday? Eh? Eh?

      That’s probably still too many for a guy trying to get a business off the ground, but big-picture, it’s coherent.

  1. No judgement, but going from 12 to 8 cars isn’t really a normal fleet, my man.

    Still, I do wonder if you actually have enough time to properly love on all of these machines, to know what they need and what is going to go wrong. That would be my concern with this many, waiting for something I missed because I didn’t drive one enough.

      1. I sold the XJ because I knew I didn’t have time to “go through it,” as I do with every vehicle I daily-drive on public roads. So I decided to sell it.

        I didn’t KNOW it had a water pump issue, but that’s a part I would have replaced preventatively had I chose to make it a part of my DD rotation.

        My philosophy on cars I plan to keep: Go through them THOROUGHLY once, then maintain. Works great, really. I’ve been driving my J10 all summer for three years — zero mechanical issues. The Mustang? Cooling system could be a little more robust, but rock solid for the past two years.

        But yeah, eight daily drivers is too many. Five with some weekend-only runabouts? Actually doable. But you gotta go through those five or six up front.

        1. Nice progress. 6 will be so much easier to manage.

          Yep, I find cars take a lot of work when you first get them, but after you work out the kinks and deferred maintenance from the previous owner, you can enjoy them with minimal intervention. The EV conversion sounds pretty time consuming though. It will be sweet when it’s done.

          Side note… it’s time to get some bumper stickers in the merch store. Keep one for yourself to cover up the existing sticker on the back of that J10.

    1. It’s not too bad, really. I only have about four or five cars in my “daily driver” fleet — J10, Mustang, nice ZJ, Valiant, and that minivan when I’m in Germany. The rest are under the knife.

      Inspecting these five cars regularly isn’t too difficult, and I can feel and listen for things as they begin to wear.

      I’ve rarely had a surprise failure on a vehicle in my “daily driver” fleet.

    2. I kind of assumed this was somewhat a joke by DT.

      I also feel like 8 cars in a fleet isn’t that abnormal for a ‘car person’. I have 5 vehicles. My buddy has 7 or 8 I believe now.

      I do agree that keeping up on maintenance for all of them is time consuming though.

  2. I feel like your idea of a “normal people fleet” is different from anyone else’s. I mean, even considering that one might own 8 cars, generally at least one of them is worth at least a small amount of money.

  3. The valiant going surprised me. But although it’s very much entertaining reading you going through all the rust and cars you have, I agree that it’s not safe for your mental health having 95% of your life revolving around it.

    1. I believe the Valiant was always going to go. Bought for a winter beater so it wouldn’t rust his Jeeps, the plan was to have it last 2-3 winters I think? Details are on that other site so I’m a little fuzzy on it.

  4. I think you need to thin the heard even more and consolidate your projects. I know you’ve done it before when the town was unhappy with you, but even since that time I feel like you’ve only gotten more projects and yet haven’t made much progress on any of them.

  5. What sort of performance, range, and budget are you targeting for the electric conversion? Given its craptastic drag coefficient, you’re likely looking at 0.5 kWh per mile energy consumption on the highway. You better find some inexpensive batteries if you want a decent range without spending way too much money.

    1. I don’t think that thing is a tourer regardless of the powertrain.

      But would make a neat “shoptruck” with EV power. He assume can charge it at home, so I would say anything past 50km should be fine for that deathtrap.

  6. The similarities between David’s fleet and my fleet (of bicycles) is uncanny…

    – bare frame waiting to be converted to electric – check
    – vehicle that I maintain that isn’t mine (wife’s bike) – check
    – overland rig (well, mountain bike) – check
    – weird old relic (1950s frame converted to single speed) – check
    – problem child that is almost pointless to keep (single speed mountain bike) – check
    – daily driver that should be my only bike, but isn’t… because, reasons – check

    Of course, in my case the entire fleet fits on one wall of the basement, so there’s that…

  7. The direction and plans for the remaining vehicles look great! And I’ll say that’s down to a fairly normal number for a car guy! Wife and I have 6 vehicles (3 first gen Dodge trucks, 71 Newport, 04 Highlander and ’19 Corolla HB) and that’s about as much as we could handle so I give you props.

  8. Bah normal fleet size for a continent hopping auto magazine eccentric hundredaire. You be you David. But
    1. At Jalopnik you had too many and a plan to deal with them seems you own more now than then.
    2. Good frame right size vehicle body rusted to shit. My suggestion make the EV but design and build your own unique truck and embarrass Elon by doing a comparison poll with the Cybertruck.
    Who you rather pay 6 figures for a Cyberpuketruck or 20 grand for a one off custom David Tracy original.
    The stories just write themselves.

    1. This. Every few months, Dave posts about how he’s downsizing his fleet. Then he sells one or two. Then he adds three more, justifying them somehow as being “special projects” that don’t really count. Or ACTUALLY belonging to someone else who has never seen the vehicle in person. Or on another continent. Or because it’s a “holy grail” or “perfect” somehow, therefore impossible to pass up.

      Rinse, repeat.

  9. “Finally I’ll have a normal-person fleet.”

    OK, let me start by saying good job selling a vehicle, and I’m glad you’re planning to sell more. But lets not pretend that having six vehicles at home, plus two more on two separate additional continents is “normal-person” stuff 🙂

    And now I’ll be a complete hypocrite and say I hope you import the Valiant Ute, because I really want to see it in person.

          1. The rift between expensive computerized cars and trucks and stuff the average guy can find parts and fix themselves seems to be getting bigger. I’m hoping you can show us a way to do it old school.

            Is it going to be kit? Or a bit of telsa, rivian, prius etc. all mixed together.

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